Indepth Articles

Different IT Support Methods

Different IT Support Methods - Indepth Article

There are multiple aspects involved in IT Support. As well as your servers and workstations, there may also be email, internet access, remote working facilities, telephony systems (landlines, VoIP and mobiles), cabling, website hosting and software.

You will also want the networking capabilities to make it all work together simultaneously, wherever you are, and some form of back-up and disaster recovery (or business continuity) alongside it.

Due to this complexity, there is often a desire to simplify it by having a single provider for all IT, internet, email, support and communication arrangements. "Managed Services" does this by creating the appearance of everything provided by one single IT Company. But they don't really provide it all themselves, they will actually buy in services from other providers but make it look like it all comes from one place.

The alternative approach is called 3rd-Party Access. With this arrangement, the IT support company still acts as a single point of contact and manages and co-ordinates everything on your behalf, but there are separate contracts between you and the individual companies who provide the different elements of your IT.

Managed Services

There is an intuitive, comforting logic to a Managed Services arrangement. Unfortunately though, there are some significant downsides to it, including:

  • An inability to select the best type of individual service for your needs. In other words, you could end up with second best in everything rather than higher quality where it's needed.
  • You are tied in to complex and linked arrangements. If something goes wrong with one aspect and you want out of it, you could be stuck with all of it. You might be in serious trouble if your IT Support provider or one of their suppliers were to go out of business as all your IT suppliers are intricately tied up together.
  • Varying Service Level Agreements between your requirements, the IT support provider, and those from whom they are buying services. This might be fine when everything is working okay - but not when things go wrong, which is when you really need it.
  • You have no transparency or control. Imagine that you heard on the news that a major supplier of IT services had a problem, such as happened following the Fukushima tsunami. At first you might not be worried about it, but if your IT support company withdrew a service from you as a result, what would you do? Without transparency and control you are at the mercy of uncontrollable outside forces, which is a dangerous position to be in with your IT.

The Service Level Agreement (SLA) aspect can pose a particular problem. You will no doubt have an SLA between yourself and your IT provider. But they will also have a number of SLAs with the companies from whom they purchase services. You will probably find that your SLA with your IT provider has a disclaimer where they don't take responsibility for things outside their control. And guess where that will lie - with the SLA between your provider and their supplier, over which you have neither control nor knowledge, even though it's your IT that will be affected by it.

A Managed Services arrangement does have its place though, such as for simple IT arrangements or where there is unlikely to be much change in the short to medium term. It can also be useful for a start-up to get them up and running quickly without having to arrange lots of different services.

The Benefits of 3rd-Party Access

With a 3rd-Party Access arrangement, your IT support company will still supply, manage and co-ordinate everything on your behalf, but the contracts would be between you and the individual companies. You then have complete control, transparency and flexibility over the arrangements. You can also have the best solutions to meet each of your different requirements, without being tied in to long term contracts or limited to a particular approach.

The skill of the IT support company is then in ensuring you have the right equipment for what you need it to do and integrating it with all other aspects of your operation.

Our recommendation is usually to go with 3rd-Party Access because of the additional benefits and flexibility it offers, rather than being tied into a Managed Services arrangement.